By Alam Zeb Safi
Pakistan football team will get a major boost when Denmark-based prolific striker Mohammad Ali joins the side ahead of their 2018 World Cup Qualifiers tie against Yemen as the Svebolle B&I player will arrive in Lahore on March 7 to join the team.
“Yes, Ali will arrive in Lahore on March 7. His inclusion will really strengthen the frontline,” Pakistan team coach Mohammed Shamlan told ‘The News’ from Bangkok on Tuesday.
Pakistan is currently preparing for the qualifiers in Bangkok. The team will return to Lahore on March 7. After a day’s stay at the Punjab capital they will fly out for Doha to face Yemen in their away leg of the qualifiers.
The return leg will be staged at the Punjab Stadium Lahore on March 17.
Ali’s combination with Danish striker Hassan Bashir and the country’s home-grown front-runner Kaleemullah will augment Pakistan’s goal-scoring chances.
Although the ins and outs of some of the players and late availability of Dordoi-trio is a bit of a concern for Shamlan, but the former Bahraini defender is confident that he will be able to create a good combination for the qualifiers.
“Such things can be a tease to me. Hassan played with us in the practice matches in Malaysia but he left us for Denmark because of his club’s commitment. It would have been much better had he played at least one practice match with Kaleem. But I am not worried and hope things will settle in our favour,” Shamlan said.
Hassan will join the team in Doha.
Former Fulham defender Zeeshan Rehman is also yet to join the team.
“Zesh also did not play with us. He is in Myanmar with his team Pahang FA and will join us in Doha,” Shamlan said.
After a week-long tour of Malaysia, Pakistan on Tuesday lost their practice show 0-2 against Thai Premier League club Osotspa in Bangkok.
Shamlan said they missed chances.
“We created five to six opportunities but could not avail them due to some mistakes in the deep,” Shamlan added.
However, he was full of praise for Danish defender Nabil Aslam.
“Nabil is a mature player and will be useful for us in the qualifiers,” said the coach. However, Pakistan may face a problem in their goal-keeping department.
It seems that the both preferred glovemen Muzammil Hussain and Saqib Hanif have not impressed Shamlan with their performances in the practice matches.
“Muzammil committed a huge error in Malaysia. We used Saqib today but he also failed to live up to the expectations,” a smiling Shamlan said.
He said the qualifiers against Yemen would be a testing time for the goalkeepers.
“The qualifiers would be a real challenge for our keepers,” the coach said.
The good news for Pakistan is that Bahrain-based defender Mohammad Ahmed has also got his clearance from his club ISA Town FC and he will reach Lahore on Wednesday (today).
“Ahmed will reach Lahore tomorrow and will practice with the Under-23 players who are undergoing training at Lahore under Sajjad Mehmood,” Shamlan said.
Shamlan was satisfied with the fitness level of his players.
“I think the players are in good shape and their fitness level is fine,” said Shamlan.
Immediately after the World Cup qualifiers, Pakistan will be fielding in the 2016 AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers Group B to be conducted at Lahore from March 23 to 31. Jordon, Kuwait, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan are in Pakistan’s group.